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October 6, 2011

India launches $35 Aakash tablet computer for students

Commercial version of the tablet, priced at $60, expected to hit stores later this year

By CBR Staff Writer

India has launched a touch screen tablet computer priced at $35 (£23).

The government claims that the new tablet computer, aimed at students, is the world’s cheapest touch-screen tablet computer.

Earlier, reports have suggested that the tablet computer supports web browsing and video conferencing. It has a three-hour battery life and two USB ports, according to the BBC.

Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal launched the tablet computer in Delhi. He handed out 500 Aakash (meaning sky in most Indian languages) tablets to students who will test them.

Earlier, The New York Times had reported that the government aims to bring the price of the laptop further down to Rs 470 or $10 in its objective to change classroom teaching across India.

The nearly a decade old project is believed to on the lines of Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, which aims to provide a $100 laptop to millions of children in over 40 countries.

While unveiling a prototype of the laptop last year in July, Sibal had said, "This is our answer to MIT’s $100 computer."

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After getting a lukewarm response from the private sector for the project, the ministry sought help from institutes like the IITs, IISc and VIT, Vellore.

The laptop — which features Internet browsing, 2GB RAM, W-Fi and USB — has been indigenously developed with custom-made low-cost motherboards and a 2-watt power system to make it work effectively in areas that have a poor power-supply, according to the NYT.
"When we started the project, the response from the private sector was lukewarm. Now, many are willing to join the innovation," Sibal said.

Sibal had said last year that the government plans to manufacture over a million $35 laptops. It is expected that the laptops would be sold to colleges and universities in India.

"The rich have access to the digital world, the poor and ordinary have been excluded. Aakash will end that digital divide," Sibal said.

The Aakash has been developed by UK-based company DataWind and Indian Institute of Technology (Rajasthan).

The tablet computers will be assembled in Hyderabad, India, at DataWind’s new production centre, said the BBC.

"Our goal was to break the price barrier for computing and internet access," DataWind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli told the BBC.

"We’ve created a product that will finally bring affordable computing and internet access to the masses."

The company has said that it plans to roll out a commercial version of the tablet, called UbiSlate. It is expected to hit stores later this year, priced around $60.

Recently, India’s telecom company Bharti Enterprises launched an Android-based tablet computer priced at $220, compared to Apple iPad’s $499. It rival Reliance Communications had launched a 7-inch $290 tablet weeks before.

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